Grieving and finding solace

Summer 2020 may not be the season of traveling and parties we all anticipated, but online readings and workshops (from Sept. 19–27) will be available for those interested in the work of countless Canadian authors and poets.

Dakshana Bascaramurty, a Globe and Mail journalist, shares her debut non-fiction book This is Not the End of Me at the Loss, Grief and Writing event through Word Vancouver.

“Talking about death makes a lot of people deeply uncomfortable,” says Bascaramurty, “but it shouldn’t be that way.”

Bascaramurty is no stranger to the ideas of meaningful collaboration. Her new book This is Not the End of Me, is a touching tale of her real life relationship with her friend, Layton Reid. The book details Layton’s battle with melanoma cancer and the painful reality of losing a friend too soon.

Writing and friendship

Dakshana Bascaramurty | Photo courtesy of Dakshana Bascaramurty

As her friend Layton battled stage IV melanoma, Bascaramurty decided to document his journey all the way up until his untimely death in January 2017.

“Layton had no clue this might one day be a book,” says Bascaramurty, “because the deal [book deal] only came about a few months after his death. He assumed it would be a long story and as his condition worsened and I thought he might not live to see it published, I asked him if he’d like to see a draft. He refused, saying that he didn’t want me to think I needed his approval – he said he’d just read it once it was out in the world.”

Detailing the last four years of her friend’s life is unlike any story Bascaramurty has previously covered. Bascaramurty found it a gift and a privilege to get to know her friend on a deeper level and write a book as a tribute and legacy to a young man’s life.

“I am a master compartmentalizer,” says Bascaramurty. “At times when I was talking to Layton or members of his family, I would be in reporter mode, asking intimate questions, and letting him open up to me, even if the subject matter was really difficult and heavy. And then, when I got off the phone, my private self – the one who was Layton’s friend – would process it all and sometimes feel devastated or scared or helpless.”

Once Layton passed, Bascaramurty found revisiting old interviews and videos of him a comforting presence, as if he was still there with her. She never found it too difficult to go on with this project because she wanted to complete a project that Layton’s surviving wife, Candace, and son, Finn, could also find solace.

Lessons on life and death

This is not the end of me. | Photo courtesy of Dakshana Bascaramurty

Although This is Not the End of Me is personal to Bascaramurty and Layton’s family, the content is relatable to all who have lost a loved one. Everyone will someday experience the death of a friend or family member and Bascaramurty hopes Layton’s story will make readers less afraid to talk about death.

“By the end, Layton was open about his fears and his wishes with his family and I think that made the final months and weeks of his life as good as they could’ve been,” says

Bascaramurty hopes Layton’s story will encourage people to talk more openly about the things that scare them. Death is the great inevitable and unknowable force in this world, and stories like Layton’s can help us take a step back and appreciate every day.

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